Summer Picnic 2019

The Summer picnic for the History Society has become a regular event and is normally blessed with fine warm weather, however this year was far from the case with very heavy showers and a chill wind, not picnic weather!  This was even more disappointing as we had invited Bishop’s Waltham Society to be our guests and to learn about the history of the Abbey.  After not expecting too many people to attend due to the weather when the time came our guests from Bishop’s Waltham met at the Abbey whilst members of our Society arrived at The Barn which had kindly been made available for us by Kevin Fraser of Titchfield Festival Theatre.  A surprisingly good attendance at both venues resulted.  In the Abbey our guests were given an introduction on the History of the Abbey and Place House, followed by a guided tour, which they very much enjoyed.  Once everyone had assembled at the Barn, they were entertained initially by a Show & Tell, prepared at short notice by Phil Burner, followed by a quiz and raffle.  The evening went well in the end, with thanks being expressed to Marilyn for organising the event despite the conditions.  Bishops Waltham are reciprocating our hospitality with a return visit to their Palace in August.  Let’s hope Summer has arrived by then!

Chairman’s Report 2019


I first of all I must apologise for not presenting this in person and would like to thank Peter Mills for chairing this meeting in my place.

2018/19 Season has been very busy and productive for the Society.  Attendances at meetings have been consistently above those of previous years and bearing in mind our total membership is just under 80 at the present time, attendances of 60 + at the meetings is remarkable.  This must reflect the hard work put in by Ros Seaward in researching and arranging our speakers.  I will mention at this stage that Ros is standing down after a number of years and her place is being taken by Amanda Laws.

I would personally like to thank Ros for her support she has given to me as chairman………(present flowers)……….

During the summer we had several social events, the most memorable probably being our visit to Bucklers Hard, where on a very fine summer’s day we were well received and entertained on a conducted tour by Lady Mary (Lord Montague’s sister) who is a member of their History Society.  This has resulted in the Beaulieu History Society paying a return visit to us in September.

Our picnic in the Abbey, was in fact held in the Great Barn this year as a change, and again a fine summer’s evening with a good attendance including representatives from Beaulieu’s research team and guides.  Towards the end of last year, the Committee were invited to hold a meeting on HMS Victory, this being organised by Sean Searight.  A very entertaining conducted tour by the Master in charge was followed by sampling of Navy Rum in the wardroom.

Whilst mentioning Sean Searight we must thank him and Ken Groves for their work in researching and producing ‘The Titchfield Emblem’ which as you know has been adopted by the history society and looks as if it will be used more widely within the village going forward, including on new entry signs being erected on the roads  into the village.  We promoted the flags and bunting at the Church fete and it was very well received with a number of orders taken.

The Committee has been working hard on ideas and other projects, Bryan Dunleavey has designed a new website which you are all welcome to interact with, research data will be added to this website in time.  The Historic Houses project has investigated several properties including the Old Vicarage and St Margaret’s, this project is ongoing.

I would at this stage to remind members of the Summer events this year.  Our trip to Winchester on Thursday 25th July is now full unless you wish to make your own way there, so I would just need to know for venue entry numbers.  With regard to lunch before we make our way to the College, the Hospital do not do that sort of food, however John Ekins has visited ‘The Bell’ pub which is very close and they have said they would supply a buffet for us at £5 per head.  This would be a nice idea for us all to stay together, however they do other pub style lunches, or you can bring your own picnic to have in the Hospital grounds etc.  I will be in touch shortly to find out who of you would like to be included in the buffet, or you can email me.

The picnic in the abbey on the evening of 20th June will be attended by Bishops Waltham Society, so it would be nice to have a good attendance and support from ourselves.  Members with guests are welcome.  It’s a fun and entertaining evening.  If the weather is inclement, we will be meeting again at the Barn.

Bishop’s Waltham have given us a return invite to join them in August on the evening of Wednesday 7th, to picnic in the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace with a tour of the palace and exclusive access to the Museum.  Again, it would be nice for us to support this event with a good attendance.  If you feel you would like to attend this event, with no obligation, can you please put your names down so that we have an idea of numbers to give to Bishop’s Waltham.

As mentioned previously the Beaulieu History Society are visiting us in September with a tour of the Abbey, Barn and Church.

Finally, I would like to thank the officers and members of the Committee for their continuing support and input which makes my life as chairman considerably easier.  And thank you all for making the History Society a successful group.


Due to the difficulties of fulfilling the coffee rota and responsibility of organising this every month, it has been decided by the committee to trial a new format for our meetings.

Firstly, the meetings will commence at 7.00p.m. allowing members time to socialise with refreshments prior to the meeting which will start at 7.45p.m.  The speaker will then make the presentation followed by questions with no intermittent break.

This format has been adopted by other organisations and seems to work.

In order to facilitate this, we are hoping to engage a couple of people to organise and serve the refreshments, this will impose a small cost upon the Society and in order to help cover this the visitors charge will be increased from £2 to £3.

The above is being put forward as a proposal by the committee, however for it to be implemented it needs to be put to a vote at this meeting.  It is proposed to review this again at the end of the year.

This report will be forwarded shortly to you all by email, however if you do not have an email address and would like a copy, please let us know.

Thankyou…Have a lovely enjoyable evening.    Marilyn Wilton-Smith

History of the Ordnance Survey

Thankful for the great British mapping system, history society members managed to find their way to the community centre and listen to a talk about the history of Ordnance Survey.

The founding father of the Ordnance Survey is considered to be William Roy, who as a Scottish military engineer, was assigned the task to carry out surveys of the Scottish Highlands, a request sent out by George II after the Jacobite rising of 1745.

Surveying methods devised was by triangulation and Roy then used this method to carry out a triangulation connection, starting at Hounslow Heath, to connect to Paris in order to establish the true line of the Meridian. Greenwich was finally recognised as the prime Meridian in 1884.

The Board of Ordnance, a department of the MOD, on 21st June 1791, purchased a Ramsden theodolite, and this entry in the purchase ledger of 373 pounds and 14 shillings, is recognised as the birth date of Ordnance Survey. The acquisition of this theodolite was necessary for the intending military survey work starting across the South, all in preparation for the threat from France at this time. As a result, in 1801 the first published map was produced and was of Kent. Most of the South was mapped by 1810 and by 1840 all but a few northern most counties and all of Wales was mapped.

By 1821, the Ordnance Survey was headed up by Thomas Colby, who remained at the head of the organisation for 27 years. He was instrumental in directing a revision of the maps to improve the quality of surveying. He and his team did have to spend some considerable time surveying in Ireland, for a valuation and taxation commission and so it was the Ireland maps that were all completed first. Bad winters and tensions with locals meant work didn’t complete till 1846.

Ordnance Survey offices back home at this time were in the Tower of London, but a fire in 1841 meant they had to move out, and a suitable place was located in London Road, Southampton.

The Land Registry Act of 1862, necessitated larger scales of 1”, 6” and 25” to the mile needing to be produced. The 1” scale maps started becoming ever more popular for public use as by 1909 there were 53,000 registered vehicles on the road.

In 1911, Charles Close, became head of OS, through till 1922 and therefore oversaw the OS through WW1 during which a staggering 33 million maps were produced, including vital maps for the western front.

The Davidson committee was established in 1935 and its role was to look at the future of the Ordnance Survey. It recommended a National Grid system and also that the entire country be remapped and to all the same standards by 1980. This was actually achieved by 1962. A re-triangulation programme involved the installation of some 6500 trig pillars.

There was however another interruption, that being WWII, and this time 42 million maps were produced. Many were of France, Germany and Italy in preparation for planned forthcoming invasions. The OS was also affected at this time by the bombing of its head offices in Southampton, and it was necessary for them to relocate to Chessington and other temporary buildings around Southampton. A new headquarters were finally established at Maybush, Southampton in 1969. More recently, a purpose built site adjacent to the M271 at Adanac Park was open in 2011.

During the past 25 years, as the fast moving digital age continually moves forward, there has been rapid developments in surveying techniques and the OS now has 500 million features in its database and currently 20,000 changes are made daily. An example of this would be that it is a requirement that a new house must appear on digital mapping within 6 months of completion. Today’s technology allows us to accurately map a position to within 2cm of its actual location on the earth’s surface.

Steve Nash



Titchfield History Society will be getting a bit of a reputation.  Earlier this year we learnt about the medieval brothels in London and have now progressed to the Harlots of Portsmouth.  Andrew Negus gave a light-hearted presentation, something in the style of ‘Horrible Histories’, of the early history of Portsmouth from 1100 – 1800.  He was born in Portsmouth, the only island city in the UK and having the densest population.

The island of Portsmouth was known as Portsea after about 1150, prior to that it was populated by small Hamlets, Copnor, Fratton etc with agriculture and salt making the main occupations.

The Normans under Henry I recognised Portsmouth as a safe anchorage with the Camber being a small harbour.  He used the Roman fort at Portchester to build a castle which was also a prison. Under Henry II the area around the Camber was developed and Thomas a Becket church now the Cathedral was built.  Richard I granted Portsmouth its Charter in 1194 and the Portsmouth Coat of Arms, ‘the star and crescent’ maybe in recognition of this and the crusades.

King John in 1215 was the founder of the Royal Dockyard in the Gunwharf area.  The Monastery of Domus Dei was founded then, this is now the Garrison Church.

Gunwharf was also the location of a tidal mill known as the ‘town mill’.  Portsmouth had no sewerage system up until the 19thC and was known as the dirty town due to the dung and sewage on the streets, the camber was like an open cesspit.  There was an annual fair attracting traders from around Europe.  Due to the distance they travelled it was known as the ‘dusty feet fair’, later known as the ‘pie powder fair’ derived from the French interpretation of the original name.

The time of greatest chance was from 1338 onwards at the start of the 100 years war with France. Both Portsmouth and Southampton were attached by the French.  Henry Isaw the need to strengthen the Port’s defences and built the round tower and installed the defensive chain across the harbour entrance.

Henry Tudor in about 1500 further strengthened the defences and built the square tower, moving the dockyard to its present location, later Henry VIII built Southsea Castle.

Under Elizabeth I the dockyard saw a period of decline with the Queen favouring Chatham dockyard to its proximity to the Netherlands and its threat there from.

At the start of the 17thC Charles I made George Villiers the duke of Buckingham the head of the Navy, he was murdered on a visit to Portsmouth and there is a memorial in the Cathedral said to contain his bowels.

The middle of 17C saw the civil war, following this Charles II married Catherine of Braganza in the Governor’s residence. He made his favourite mistress Louise De Keroveoille the Duchess of Portsmouth and Countess of Fareham.

Samuel Pepys became administrative head of the Navy.

The 18C saw an expansion of the City with extensive new fortifications and a new town hall, this coincided with the growth of the Navy.  In the 1780s the dockyard was the largest factory complex in the world.

It was at this time ‘The Point’, the strip of land partly enclosing the Camber became infamous. It was outside the city walls, it had 44 inns, many of which were brothels.  The whores of Portsmouth known as ‘Portsmouth Pols’ plied their trade both onshore and aboard the warships.  From this grew Nelson’s Navy and the vast Naval Dockyard we see today.   ‘That is another story’.

Colin Wilton-Smith

THE ORIGINS OF BISHOP’S WALTHAM – Exploring the Unexplored


A very well attended meeting of the History Society was entertained by Tony Kippenburger to a talk which explored facts and theories about the history of Bishop’s Waltham from Roman times through to the present day.

The factual and sometimes amusing presentation explored the way the town had developed from an early settlement in the upper reaches of the Beaulieu River to its present day position as a thriving town.

The origins of the settlements were mainly due to its proximity to Winchester and the coast, and the meeting of two Roman roads.  A church was built around 6C.  Tony had researched the origins of the name and its associations with Royal estates. There had been a castle (the location of which is unknown) situated within the area, this was however demolished fairly soon after it was built and Henry le Bois, a Bishop of Winchester and part of the royal lineage at the time developed the palace on the Southern side of the town.  This palace was a very impressive complex and had been visited by most of the reigning monarchs up until the 18C.  The church to the North of the village had originally been built in 7C but was demolished with the present church having Norman origins. The town developed in the area between the church and the palace and was set out as burbage plots, some of which can still be identified today.

 It is known that in 1001 the Vikings burnt and pillaged the town, and we wonder what it was that they felt it worth them travelling specifically to Bishops Waltham to carry this out.  However the town was soon rebuilt.

Tony went on to explain that although very good records of the village are accessible, from Norman times onwards there is little of no information for the Saxon period.  The Domesday book however indicates that the town was the 10thlargest settlement in Hampshire implying that there had been an established population in this area for many years.  

Tony who is chairman of the Bishops Waltham society went on to say that as a result of this lack of knowledge of the very early history of the town, a project has been started to carryout detailed investigations and assessments of any evidence that would provide evidence of an earlier history.  This will include finding and inspecting small pottery finds.


Old Roads Through Titchfield

Tis map published by Milne in 1791 is one of the more advanced 18th century maps, but is does reveal very different travel patterns to those we experience today. The main road between Southampton and Portsmouth was the old medieval high road that went along the downs through Wickham and eventually down into Southampton through Stoneham. Progress would have been slow and a journey by sea was probably quicker.

As far as Titchfield is concerned, there was no forerunner of the A27. There was a track from Porchester, through Fareham and Catisfield that brought one down to the stone bridge adjacent to Place House. This was probably the route taken by Margaret of Anjou when she travelled from Porchester to Titchfield in 1445 for her marriage to Henry VI.

By far the more important road in 1791 appears to be the road to Gosport, which goes through Rowner and Crofton and down into Titchfield, entering the village on Bridge Street. The road follows the present route through South Street, High Street and up Southampton Hill and across the common to the Burseldon Ferry, and from there to the Itchen Ferry at Bitterne in order to reach Southampton.

What is also of interest in this map is that Titchfield at the end of the 18th century still retained its medieval importance. Apart from fareham, which seems to have just overtaken Titchfield in size, the ancient village is much larger than Wickham and Botley, and the  land between Titchfield and Gosport (not shown on this section) is only populated by farms and scattered cottages.

A Royal Wedding 1445

Medieval monasteries were amongst the most impressive buildings of their times. They were spacious, sumptuously built and maintained and were certainly fitting places for the accommodation of the well-to-do. The abbey at Titchfield, although by no means the largest or richest, was nevertheless well appointed and an appropriate place for a royal wedding.

The occasion was the marriage of Henry VI, to Margaret of Anjou, and the day was 22 April 1445. Margaret was 15 years old and Henry eight years her senior and this day was the culmination of a good deal of diplomatic effort over a protracted period. It was a highly political marriage with a great deal at stake, for the English at any rate, and it turned into a major political miscalculation by the English.

Activity around the idea of a marriage went back to the beginning of 1444 when the English were trying to construct a truce. French resurgence since the time of Joan of Arc made the English hold on Normandy increasingly tenuous and expensive and some breathing room was required. A marriage for Henry, now in his early 20s seems to be a way of securing this. Charles VII of France was amenable to the idea, but he would not propose his own daughters and attention then fell upon Margaret of Anjou. Her father, Rene, duke of Anjou was a cousin to the Valois king but other than that had little to offer. He had wasted a good part of his life pursuing his phantom title to the kingdom of Naples and bankrupted himself in the process. Therefore Margaret came only with a name and a dowry.

However, the English government was interested. The arrangement promised a two year truce with the prospect of negotiating something of longer duration, and in a spirit of optimism Margaret was married at the church of St Martin at Tours on 24 May 1444 to Henry VI. Standing in as proxy for the king was William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk. Once the diplomatic business of the marriage and the truce was effected, the earl returned to England.

Six months elapsed and Suffolk, newly promoted to marquess, returned to France to escort Margaret to England. He was accompanied by Sir Richard Woodville and his wife Jacquetta. They were to spend some time in France. Margaret was unwell at this time and the winter weather that followed did not allow a crossing so it was not until April of the following year that they were able to cross the Channel.

The party landed at Porchester on 9 April but Margaret was again unwell. It seems to have been something more than sea-sickness as it was described as caused  ‘of the labour and indisposition of the sea by occasion of which the pocks broke out upon her.’ Whatever the complaint, it kept her down for seven days.

The chroniclers are vague about what happened to her. Gregory say that she went to Hampton (Southampton) to rest in God’s House, before returning to Titchfield. Gregory says that she went to Southwell (probably meaning Southwick) and Fabyan’s Chronicle also records that they were married at Southwick. It may be hard to make sense of all this. Porchester had been converted to a royal palace by Richard II and was perfectly able to accommodate large retinues. It was a practical place to house Margaret’s party. There was a connection with the Priory of Southwark since it was at one time within the walls of Porchester Castle until they decamped for their own place a few miles north in the middle of the 12th century and it is possible that Henry himself was staying there. It would make better sense for him to be lodging at Titchfield; otherwise why hold the ceremony there rather than Southwick? Margaret may have been taken to God’s house at Southampton because there were men there who could minister to her sickness. She would have been taken by water (by far the fastest way to travel) and returned to Porchester ready to progress to Titchfield.

Initially the marriage was considered a success by the English public since it promised years of peace in the future, but it quickly unravelled. In July a French embassy came to England to discuss a further truce and of course they wanted something in return. The County of Maine, at that time a buffer state between French Anjou and English Normandy, was desired by the French. Both Henry and Margaret, already asserting herself, were party to the negotiations and Henry gave a private undertaking to cede Maine to France in return for a 20 year truce. Suffolk and a few others were involved but the treaty was a secret one and by 22 December Henry agreed in a letter to surrender Maine by 30 April 1446.

Had this resulted in the intended peace the trade may not have been such a bad one but the Maine garrison, who had not been consulted or informed, refused to surrender. Charles chose to consider this a breach of the treaty and marched into Maine in February 1448. Two weeks later it was his. The following year he marched into Normandy and within two months had taken Rouen. Everything was quickly lost and England’s presence in France was now reduced to the Pale of Calais.

There is little trace of the abbey today. It was acquired by Sir Thomas Wriothesly, later Baron Titchfield and later still earl of Southampton in 1539 and he immediately set about converting the abbey into a splendid Tudor country house. Of that only the gatehouse and some walls survive.

There is a local legend that Margaret and her retinue crossed the River Meon at the bottom of Fishers Hill and indeed this bridge is often referred to as the”Anjou Bridge” today. This stone bridge dates from 1625 and doubtless there were earlier wooden bridges at this narrow crossing. There is no documentary evidence that I know of to establish this bridge as the crossing, one way or the other, but sometimes local legends are important.

Bryan Dunleavy

The Beestons of Titchfield

William Beeston was a prosperous man who was living at Posbrook House towards the end of his life. He was a tenant of the earl and had the means to educate his children. His eldest son, Henry, became Master at Winchester College and New College, Oxford and his second son, William became Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica and was knighted. Great Posbrook House still stands today and would have been a substantial and expensive house when it was built. It is probably correct to assume that the Beestons were well-to-do and well-connected. William Beeston married Elizabeth Bromfield, a daughter of Arthur Bromfield, a man with manors middlesex and Hampshire. William Beeston died in 1638 and is buried in Titchfield. It should be noted that Sir William Beeston was born in 1636, two years before the older William Beeston died. This is possible of course as Elizabeth Bromfield, the wife of William Beeston, was considerably younger than her husband, although it has been suggested that Sir William Beeston may have been a grandson. The DNB states that he was the son of William Beeston of Posbrook.

This would excite no great interest are it not for the fact that John Aubrey wrote that he had been told by William Beeston that William Shakespeare was sometime a schoolmaster in the country. What Aubrey actually wrote was this:

Though, as Ben Jonson says of him that he had but little Latin and less Greek, he understood Latin pretty well, for he had been in his younger years a schoolmaster in the county – from Mr Beeston.

This man was William Beeston, but not the buccaneering Sir William Beeston, who made a pile of money in Jamaica; he was a well known actor and producer of plays, the son of Christopher Beeston, an actor and colleague of William Shakespeare. This William Beeston was born 1610/11 and died in 1682

Any scrap of information about Shakespeare tends to send the imagination into overdrive and several scholars have been tempted to make the Beeston connection with Titchfield. Is there a connection?

At first glance the connection may rest only on the name. The Titchfield Beestons were, as described above, well-to-do and the sons and daughters would have good opportunities in life without considering the rough and uncertain trade of an actor. Both Henry and Sir William Beeston were able to slide into prestigious positions and need not have given acting a second thought. In William Beeston’s relatively straightforward will he bequeathed everything to his wife, presumably because the children were still very young.

Now let us turn to Christopher Beeston. He was a child actor in 1592 and grew up with the theatre. He acted with William Shakespeare in Ben Jonson’s play Every Man in his Humour and he probably did well enough out of his trade. He had at least one son, the William mentioned by Aubrey, and he died in 1638, coincidentally only a few days after William Beeston of Titchfield. He was probably born c. 1582.

If he was connected to the Titchfield Beestons, his choice of a career on the stage appears unlikely. It was possible to make a living during Shakespeare’s lifetime but most families would be very wary of a future for their sons in this trade. The large majority of the actors and playwrights of Shakespeare’s day came from modest backgrounds and had little to lose. They were clever men of course and could readily undertake the hack work of putting together a play. Boy-actors, who took the parts of women, were unlikely come from a well-to-do family.

Christopher Beeston doesn’t seem to fit.

Except, as Stewart Trotter has ventured, he was an illegitimate son. What is attractive about Stewart Trotter’s theory is that acting was in many respects the perfect opportunity for a boy born on the other side of the blanket. He had no reputation to lose and the more respectable opportunities enjoyed by his half brother or brothers were closed to him. William Beeston of Titchfield may have been a hard driving character and possibly only in his sunset years did he settle into marriage and family at Posbrook. Thomas Nashe, the pamphleteer and sometime playwright, wrote a pamphlet called “Strange News” and dedicated it to William “Apis Lapis” (Latin for Bee-stone). From the text William Apis Lapis emerges as a bon viveur who was not always scrupulous about the way he made money. He may also have fathered illegitimate children. The pamphlet also indirectly informs us that Beeston was a man about town (London) and one suspects that this washer he made his money before settling on a quieter life at Posbrook.

Could one of them have been Christopher Beeston? If this was the case then William Beeston would have taken minimal responsibility for the child, providing a few pounds for maintenance and then largely leaving the woman to make theist of it. In this scenario we can imagine young Christopher being put on the stage at an early age to help with the household budget He also signed himself Christopher Hutchinson,which may suggest that this was his mother’s name.

There may be an issue with dates. William Beeston was established and well-known in 1592 and we believe that Christopher Beeston/Hutchinson was about 10 years old at that date. This would place William Beeston’s birth in the early 1560s – possibly even 1564! That would place him in his mid-70s at the time of his death, and in his 70s when he sired his son William. Not at all impossible of course, but at the very least raising some questions.

I can’t arrive at any definite conclusions about the connection between William Beeston and Christopher Beeston – if any. Christopher may have come from another Beeston family altogether; however, there are some rounds at leat for considering a link.

For a fuller account please go to Stewart Trotter’s blog, The Shakespeare Code.

Lord Montagu’s address


I am delighted to be taking part in today’s inauguration of St Peter’s as a Heritage Church. A place of worship dating back over 1000 years, which contains so many significant links with the past, fully deserves to be put on the heritage map of Southern England.

Whilst this project is about celebrating all aspects of the church’s history, I am really here to continue a family association which goes back over 400 years. I am referring, of course, to my ancestors’ monument and vault which has been situated in the South Chapel for over half of its seven-century history.

Four generations of Wriothesleys who served eight English monarchs through 150 turbulent years, and whose lives were inextricably woven into the history of Hampshire and of England, are interred here at Titchfield. So when you are feeling in a contemplative mood, stand over their final resting place and reflect upon the fact that from them, over 80 British Peers can trace their lineage; that’s quite a dynasty.

The rise of the Wriothesley family began with Thomas who in 1524, at the age of nineteen, entered the service of Thomas Cromwell and became Clerk of the Signet. Wriothesley’s services to the King were later rewarded with extensive lands in Hampshire including Titchfield and Beaulieu. Both were former abbeys, and both were converted into residences. Place House in Titchfield, Palace House in Beaulieu. He was knighted and in 1544 and became Baron of Titchfield and Earl of Southampton in 1547. His son, Henry, later 2nd Earl, was honoured by having King Henry VIII as his Godfather.

In his will of 1582, the 2nd Earl ordered that two monuments should be built, one for his father Thomas and mother Jane, the other for himself. But there was a significant delay and the result was a single monument bearing three effigies, all carved from marble and alabaster. Additionally, there is the rare depiction Henry, 3rd Earl of Southampton as a young man, kneeling and praying.

For those seeking other links with history, one cannot fail to be moved by 3rd Earl’s connection to the greatest writer of the English language. Shakespeare only dedicated his work to one man, Henry Wriothesley, to whom the poet pledged his love “without end.”

The 3rd Earl was also a leading figure in the Virginia Company. The Port of Southampton was the point of departure for the Pilgrim Fathers and the Mayflower was amongst the ships he financed, and which landed safely in the New World two years before his death in 1624.

But this isn’t just a monument to figures in history, it is also a remarkable work of stone carving; the materials, the scale, positioning and the design were all used to express status and power. The work of Flemish sculptor Gheerart Janssen and his son Nicholas, this is amongst the finest and the best preserved Elizabethan monuments in England. So whilst this church has much else to merit its heritage status, for me this is its jewel, and one which deserves to be more widely appreciated.

In the centuries which have followed since its creation, we must be grateful that the monument has been more admired than abused, and so whilst the passing years took their toll, worshippers and visitors came to acknowledge the monument as a very special piece, worthy of their care and protection. William Pavey, writing in 1719, was possibly the first to recognize this. Later, in 1839, RHC Ubsdell’s watercolours were another form of appreciation. It was the recent discovery of these which gave us the information required to produce an accurate facsimile of the 2nd Earl’s funerary achievement which now hangs in the same place as the original.

As one of the senior Wriothesley descendants, and the only remaining family member to be living in a property acquired by the 1st Earl of Southampton, my great grandfather was one of the first to take the lead in raising funds for restoration work in 1902. My father similarly initiated a campaign for repairs which were carried out in 1979. Additionally, work to the South Chapel in the 1950s was funded by grants, public appeals and fundraising under Rev. Norman Miller’s direction.

In fact, the work of maintaining historic buildings and their contents never ends, but how we present the legacies inherited from previous generations will inevitably evolve over time. This occasion represents a new chapter in that process.

For me, there are parallels with Beaulieu Abbey, a visitor attraction where we combine worship with the telling of a story about the church and its historical, religious, cultural and political role. And if we’re to do this properly, we shouldn’t just rely on ‘handed down’ accounts as there is scope to undertake new research which can help to fill in some of the gaps in our understanding. In addition to re-examining the established evidence and documentation, we have the opportunity to enlist new imaging and scientific techniques which can inform our approach to conservation while making a significant contribution to the historical record of the Parish.

It was this, combined with a growing public interest in my ancestors, that persuaded me to establish The Southampton Monument and Vault Initiative, a partnership with St Peters and the University of Southampton. It is early days but, guided by a mission of preservation, discovery, and commemoration, it is my hope that this initiative will complement the work already taking place here in rediscovering St Peter’s past and helping it to develop as a heritage attraction.

I will finish with the words of an author whose connections with Titchfield and the 3rd Earl continue to be a subject of study and speculation.

this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England

These words might also describe the spirit of what Titchfield embodies today, reaching back over 1000 years, but also welcoming the future and the opportunities it presents.